Vehicle graphics has become an increasingly profitable and popular trend in the printing industry. The advent of digital technology and an ever changing product market has made it simpler than ever for companies to add vehicle graphics—and the installation of these graphics to their menu of products and services. As our professionals attest, however, installing vehicle graphics isn’t quite as simple as it might seem.
When a company decides to get into the business of installing vehicle graphics, it is likely that a member of the team will attend a one or two day seminar held by a product vendor. Unfortunately, those seminars offer a great deal of information but rarely prepare someone for the ins and outs of the business.
Mike Grillo, a long time installer and founding partner of Road Rage Designs says, “People are jumping into the business just because it’s cool. Seminars offer just enough to make you dangerous.”
Rob Ivers of Rob Ivers, Inc. has been in the business for over 30 years and routinely trains people on the art of graphic installation. Ivers is heavily invested in the education of others, particularly his staff. However, in an effort to educate the public and members of the industry, Ivers has also recently published the “Graphic Installers Handbook,” the most extensive how-to book in the industry. Ivers shares stories, techniques, tips, and tricks to successfully install graphics.
Tips and Tricks
Julie Martin, Director at AB Installations, Inc., shares her experience in the industry. AB Installations, a member of the United Application Standards Group (UASG), devotes itself solely to the creation and installation of graphics. Martin is in charge of the project management while her husband and partner, Chad, is a full time installer. When it comes to tips and tricks, Martin says, “When you’re working with installers that are actually experienced in the trade and they’re out there in the field doing that work of course they come across and learn they develop tricks and things that will help them. For us an as installation company, our tips would come more from the project management side.”
Martin discusses the importance of establishing communication with the customer and choosing the appropriate application for the job. Martin states that the preparation of the job is going to be the key to the job’s success or failure.
“I think it’s a bigger portion of whether you succeed or not because if you’re a talented installer, you’re a talented installer and that is the perfect thing but not if you’re cutting corners...”
While it is true that installers develop their own tips, tricks and techniques, Martin believes it’s the basic knowledge and procedure that makes or breaks the job.
Martin says, “For us, because we understand the trade, there are no tips or tricks. “
Back to Basics
The surest way to succeed as a graphics installer is to receive the proper education, training, and certification. PDAA Certification from SGIA is routinely recommended for those that are interested in becoming involved in the graphic installation business. PDAA is an unbiased certification that tests installers in every area of installation through a combination of hands-on and written tests. Installers are required to show their proficiency in the installation process using a wide variety of products from different manufacturers.
Ivers holds a master certification and feels that it is essential that every member of the team is certified as well.
“It’s a lot more complex than people think,” Ivers says. “When it comes to installation, there are four basic steps: Cleaning, positioning, application, and finishing.”
One of the first places an installer can get into trouble is not using the correct method of cleaning the application surface.
“People need to use proper cleaning solution and not just what they made up and think will work they should be using solvents that will actually dissolve and resist contaminates,” said Ivers.